Archives for April 2016

Memorial for Sen. Conrad Burns

A memorial service has been announced for former U.S. Sen Conrad Burns, who died at home Thursday.
The service is set for 11 a.m. on May 6 at MetraPark in Billings. The Burns’ family has requested the use of Rimrock Auto Arena
The “Metra” would be a fitting place for Burns’ service, according to friend and former chief of staff Dwight Mackay.
Burns was instrumental in creating some the mainstay events at MetraPark, including the Northern International Livestock Expo and the Agri-Trade Exposition, which draw thousands of visitors to MetraPark each year.
The arena was the site of one of Burn’s favorite anecdotes concerning President Ronald Reagan.
In August 1982, Reagan rode a horse-drawn stagecoach into Rimrock Auto Arena. The President reached out his hand to Conrad Burns and introduced himself, to which Burns replied with a profanity and smirk. Reagan turned to his aides and said “Boys, we’re in Montana.”

Yellowstone Deputy saves 2-year-old

Make no mistake. There are real heroes at the sheriff’s Department. 2-year-old child was rescued from the Yellowstone River this morning, after the child and his 5-year-old brother went missing.
The boys were reported missing from a trailer home, about 30 yards away from the Heritage Trail and some 300 yards from the river’s edge. The boys’ father had driven his wife to work and when he returned, the children were gone.
In addition to the Yellowstone County Sheriff’s Office, an ambulance responded and a K-9 unit was brought in to assist with the search.
Deputy Adam Lauwers followed a bike trail to the river, spotted the two children, just in time to see the 2-year-old fall in the river. Lauwers jumped in and rescued the child.
Neither child was injured in the incident, though the 40 degree temperature conditions could have resulted in hypothermia or worse. Thanks, Deputy.

Billings Friday AM News 2

Cloud Peak Energy reported a $36.4 million first quarter loss on Wednesday. It is the sole publicly traded coal company in the Powder River Basin to avoid bankruptcy to date. It lost $4.7 million during the first quarter of 2015. Production slumped from roughly 19 million tons during the first quarter of 2015 to 13 million tons the first three months of this year. Revenues fell from $317 million last year to $181 million this year.

The Office of the State Public Defender is seeking public information regarding a former detective sergeant with the Billings Police Department. State Public Defender with the Major Crime Unit Clark Mathews has filed a public records request for a copy of Sgt. Detective Matthew Brewer’s personnel file. The request is being reviewed by the Billings City Attorney’s office, which was unavailable for comment. Matthews requested the information Monday, a day before Brewer resigned from the police department.

Billings Friday AM News

The Billings Gazette reports that a Yellowstone County Sheriff’s deputy is on paid administrative leave after being cited for driving under the influence in Columbus.
Undersheriff Kevin Evans said that Deputy Chad Fehr was cited March 18 and three days later was placed on leave pending an investigation into whether any county or Sheriff’s Office policies were violated. A driving under the influence charge does not automatically call for termination. The situations are rare, and circumstances dictate how they are handled.
Fehr has been a deputy for 18 years and served several years as the Yellowstone County deputy coroner. Sheriff Mike Linder said Fehr was off duty and driving a personal vehicle when the incident occurred.

2015 National Student Poet Anna Lance talked to fourth graders at Bench Elementary about creating a poem Thursday, perhaps inspiring a young, creative mind, or planting the seeds of inspiration for a burgeoning poet.

The snowplows are working in Beartooth Pass

The snowplows are hard at work again, clearing the snow from the Beartooth Pass south of Red Lodge. Crews report in spite of an “off” snow year, battling the elements is still a daily challenge for crews working to reopen the scenic highway. The goal is to open the Pass by Memorial Day Weekend, which believe it or not is one month from Wednesday.

Fed to investigate price-fixing in cattle market

Prompted by a Billings-based advocacy group, the federal government will investigate the late 2015 price collapse in the U.S. cattle market.
The investigation was requested Wednesday by the Senate Judiciary Committee, after calls to action from the Billings-based Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America, or R-CALF USA.
The Government Accountability Office will conduct the investigation. R-CALF has maintained that collusion among the nation’s top four meatpackers drove cattle prices to artificially low levels, cutting as much as $500 per animal from what ranchers were being paid for beef in the second half of 2015.
Bill Bullard, R-CALF USA president said cattle prices dropped $40 per hundredweight, or about $500 per head. He estimates that independent producers lost $4.7 billion in the second half of 2015.
R-CALF began asking for an investigation in January of 13 antitrust and anti-competitive issues, like importing beef to soften supply, which they believe pushed prices down.

Thursday AM Billings News

Billings Police report that a coffee kiosk barista was robbed at gunpoint Wednesday afternoon.
According to the BPD, a man wearing a black ski mask approached from an alley behind the small building, showed a black handgun and demanded money from the barista of Latte Central in Billings, shortly after noon.
When the barista informed him that she had no cash, he reportedly climbed through the window and robbed the woman of her personal belongings and fled.
The suspect is described as a white male, 5 feet 6 inches tall, with a skinny build. He was wearing black running pants and a white hoodie.

Cold Stone Creamery reopened Wednesday on the West End, despite temperatures in the low-to-mid 30s. Franchise owner Dan Gruntowicz reopened the store after it closed in September. He hired employees who had worked there before. The previous owners decided not to continue their contract with the ice cream franchise.

Great Falls Man takes child, faces charges

A man who triggered a multi-county search yesterday morning after reportedly taking his child by force from a Great Falls home faces possible charges. Matthew Volkomener was arrested yesterday (Tuesday) just before 1 p.m. in Wheatland County between Great Falls and Billings. The Great Falls Police Department said the abduction happened at about 10:50 a.m. at a home in the 1700 block of 7th Avenue South. Volkomener reportedly took the 2-year-child by force and also caused injury to the child’s grandmother. Police said Volkomener may have been under the influence of narcotics at the time.

Godfather’s Pizza Brawl in Billings

A tense exchange between two families sharing the party space at Godfather’s Pizza erupted into a brawl Tuesday night that ended with one woman hospitalized and another in jail.
Billings Police Department Sgt. Jason Gartner said around five officers responded to Godfather’s Pizza at 905 Main St. at around 7:30 p.m. Tuesday night on the report of a roughly 15-person brawl in the restaurant.
Gartner said the families were somehow acquainted and were both having separate birthday parties in the same area when “an argument between a couple of females began.”
By the time BPD arrived, Gartner said the fight was pretty much finished. One woman who had been punched in the head had to be transported to an area hospital, and another was arrested on an outstanding warrant.

Gartner said BPD is not issuing names at this point and that the investigation is ongoing. Both sides blamed the other for instigating the brawl.

Wed. Billings AM News

Billings Police Sgt. Matt Brewer, who was placed on paid administrative leave in February, has resigned.
Brewer’s paid administrative leave was reportedly the result of an internal investigation into “allegations of off-duty misconduct and violation of department policy,” according to a news release. Brewer worked as a night shift commander until Jan. 1 when he began a rotation with the detective division. He joined BPD in May 1999. Lt. Casey Hafner said the sargeant’s position will be advertised this week but could take time to fill.

Wise Wonders, Billings’ first children’s museum, offers interactive education and its new exhibit, “Nano: The Science of Small,” builds on that mission. Although Wise Wonders opened in June it never hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony. But executive director Kelli Toohill said the newly finished renovation and fresh exhibition called for celebration. The museum will host Nano for a couple months, but a new water exhibit will soon replace it.